The NHL launches its Winter Classic campaign

The hockey league is focusing its efforts to promote the New Year's Day outdoor game to sports fans south of the border who don't regularly watch hockey.

The NHL has kicked off its ad campaign to raise interest in this season’s Bridgestone Winter Classic, which will pitt Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin against each other at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

The two stars will be facing off against each other as part of the outdoor game on New Year’s Day.

The event has become a huge draw for the NHL on both sides of the border, but the ad campaign is mostly targeted south of the 49th parallel, where there’s a larger population of sports fans who don’t follow hockey, Casey Hall, senior director of marketing, NHL, tells MiC.

‘The goal of the campaign is really to capture attention and generate interest among a more general sports fan, extending outside of our core existing fan base and trying to draw in a more casual sports viewer,’ says Hall. ‘That’s one of the reasons the Winter Classic was created and it’s certainly the largest objective of this campaign, to increase awareness, generate interest and get them to tune in.’

In Canada, the ad – which aired for the first time this weekend – will run until game day on Jan. 1, 2011, on CBC, RDS and the NHL Network. On radio, there will be ads on stations that play hockey games across Canada, as well as on the Sirius NHL station. Online, the commercial will be on and via social media platforms.

The media buy was done in-house and the New York office of Young & Rubicam handled the creative.

The TV ad plays up the rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin, the captains of the two teams participating this year. In the spot, the two meet on the green grass of Heinz Field, then the skies darken, it starts to rain, the rain turns to snow, and the ice forms below them.